When the Atlanta Falcons released defensive end John Abraham on March 1, they shaved off the only player to reach double digits in sacks, and almost 35 percent of the team’s 29 sacks from 2012. The move also left Atlanta with just three defensive ends—Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews—on its roster.
To say the Falcons have to bolster their roster with a couple of defensive ends is a mammoth understatement. But how do they go about filling the depth chart?
I’m of the opinion that general manager Thomas Dimitroff needs to sign a veteran free-agent defensive end and draft one in the upcoming NFL draft in late April.
The reason Atlanta needs to bring in a veteran is because of the age and experience makeup of the current roster. Biermann has been in Atlanta for five seasons and is a ‘tweener defensive end/outside linebacker. Matthews and Massaquoi have just three years of experience between them. All three players could benefit from the sage advice a veteran would bring in.
Head coach Mike Smith handles veteran players extremely well as he’s a true “players’ coach.” Abraham rarely practiced on Wednesdays, and Smith limited his game and practice snaps as part of Smith’s “Graybeard Club,” a group of players over the age of 30 that needed extended rest.
The move paid off as Abraham raved about Smith’s handling of veteran players. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has also praised Smith.
Since the Falcons need a veteran pass-rusher, and Smith is the kind of coach aging stars love to work for, who could the team bring in?
Abraham still hasn’t signed, and could consider a return to the Falcons. He not only knows Mike Nolan’s new defensive scheme, but flourished in Atlanta for the last seven seasons, averaging just fewer than 10 sacks per season.
Osi Umenyiora made his first visit of free agency Wednesday with the Falcons, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today. He didn’t sign, but initiated a conversation with Roddy White on Twitter that left the door open with the Falcons.
@roddywhitetv very good Roddy. Very good. Thanks for asking.— Osi Umenyiora (@OsiUmenyiora) March 21, 2013
@roddywhitetv we will see what happens!!!— Osi Umenyiora (@OsiUmenyiora) March 21, 2013
Umenyiora has played with the New York Giants for nine seasons and averaged just more than nine sacks per season over his last eight years in a full-time role.
Who should the Falcons sign?
Dwight Freeney suffered last season as the Indianapolis Colts moved him into a 3-4 scheme. Freeney wants to play in a traditional 4-3 defense, and even though Nolan uses a 4-3 with some hybrid 3-4 looks, Atlanta could be a favorable landing spot for the defensive end.
Take away his five-sack performance last year as he played out of position, and Freeney has reached double digits in sacks in three of the last four seasons.
According to the Denver Post, the Falcons are interested in Elvis Dumervil. Why not?
Born in 1984, Dumervil isn’t quite 30 years old yet, but has six years of NFL experience with the Denver Broncos. Over the last three seasons, Dumervil has averaged 12.5 sacks but may end up being too expensive for the Falcons.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.